July 23, 2008

All this gas talk reeks of classism

Posted in economics, gas crisis, news, privilege at 10:15 am by LB

You know, I’m really starting to get sick of all the “news” stories about rising gas prices and how that’s affecting family summer vacations. Several times a week I hear, read, or see some sort of report about how people are “coping” with having to cancel vacations and instead are creating their travel experience at home (i.e. having a luau in your backyard because you can’t afford to go to Hawaii). There’s even a cute name for them: Stay-cations.

This is by and large the hot gas-related story of the summer. The gist of the story? Woe is me, gas is so expensive that we can’t afford to take our family vacation, we’re sooo stressed out over it, we’re handling this stressful and tragic situation the best we can by having a pretend glamorous vacation at home.

Ahem, privilege, anyone? Honestly, I really don’t feel all that bad for the families who are so economically privileged that they can actually afford to take off of work (or are privileged enough to have paid vacation time) and can go on a family vacation. Why should I?

I’d say I was solid lower-middle to middle class growing up. We went on a vacation every year: a week at my grandparents’ condo in the Southern Tier of New York, less than 3 hours from home. Why? Because it was free. A few summers we didn’t go; those years we visited my aunts, uncles, and cousins in New England. Besides the travel costs of my parents’ station wagon? Also, for the most part, free.

We never went on what you might call a family vacation. And up until now, I didn’t realize that going on some wonderful elaborate trip was some sort of innate American right such that we ought to spend valuable news time lamenting that middle class families this year can’t afford to drive halfway across the country and stay in a resort for a week. Heaven forbid for a summer you actually spend that week doing activities–gasp!–in your own general region. Or that you might now have to vacation–shock!–every other summer. Or, that you–horror!–spend time socializing with friends and neighbors. In an age where we hardly know our neighbors, and where most people are unfamiliar with the gems and resources in their own town, is it really all that huge a loss that the privileged Americans have a Staycation?

Why are middle and upper-middle class families and their precious Disney vacations the face of the rising cost of gasoline and not the working class families who lived month to month as it was before the exponential price increases…who maybe have to skimp on food or medical services, and for whom a Myrtle Beach trip isn’t even on their radar? Instead of moping about being stuck at home, maybe some of these families should spend part of their summer volunteering for charities who help those who will only ever hear about DisneyWorld in the stories told by other more fortunate kids.

4 Comments »

  1. Ophelia said,

    Did you hear them when they started reporting about the hummer and suv owner’s lament over prices? It seems that news media has no idea that there are plenty of people living hand to mouth as is and these gas prices are forcing them to cut back even more. Hell, my apartment building had gas heat and at the drop of a hat installed electric heaters which raised my cost of living by $80-$100 extra a month. They’re trying to squeeze blood from turnips. People who didn’t have enough to start with are being forced into desperate situations in an attempt to have a roof over their head, a job to go to, and a means to get to both.

  2. Renee said,

    Very good point. Instead on focusing on the lost vacation they should realize how the gas increase is effecting those that are living on the margins. Too me the cost of transportation rising is a good thing. People need to start car pooling and taking public transportation. It will reduce our environmental foot print. What bothers me when I think of gas price increasing is the cost of heat in the winter. Having a home with heat is a necessity in many states and the rise in cost means that many families will be suffering and going without this winter. This is what we should be focusing on. Even though it is July winter will be upon us shortly and for those that are on the margins it could mean real suffering.

  3. This is a comment I made to a co-worker of mine the other day. I’ve only been on 6 vacations in my ENTIRE life. Three to Florida (two of those times, we stayed, ate & traveled with family) and three to DR (where we always stay, eat & travel with family). She seemed very shocked by this.

    So when I kept hearing about people having “stay-cations” and other things like that, it seemed so foreign to me that I just didn’t get it. I guess I still don’t. I don’t feel that bad for all of these people– is that wrong of me or something?

    My idea of vacation is just days when I don’t have to work. I can play games & read to my heart’s content.

  4. Minerva said,

    Our culture tends to pay attention only to the problems being faced by the privileged class. It has always been that way. Will it ever change? I do not know. Not by itself at least. Raising awareness is a great way to start taking action. The media seems not to notice the difficulties through which lower class families are going through due to the recession. Such problems include unemployment. I could go on and on about all the problems derived by unemployment, however I am pretty sure not being able to go on an annual vacation is probably the least important one, if they even consider it a problem, which I highly doubt. They portray an annual family vacation as a necessity and they forget the meaning of a luxury. Difficulties go beyond not being able to have luxuries; having difficulties means not being able to meet necessities.


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